“The Raft,” the first feature-length documentary by Swedish artist and filmmaker Marcus Lindeen, has taken top honors at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX film festival, one of Europe’s leading non-fiction showcases. The film, a Swedish co-production with Denmark, Germany and the U.S., was named best in show in the festival’s premier DOX:Award section, by a jury comprising filmmakers Mila Turajlic, Matt Wolf and Caroline Sascha Cogez, critic Nick Pinkerton and artist Barbara Visser.
A world premiere and palpable audience favorite at the Danish fest, Lindeen’s film revisits the Acali Experiment, a curious social study that made global tabloid headlines in 1973. Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genoves assembled a diverse international group of five men and six women to cross the Atlantic together on a small raft, documenting the social and sexual tensions that emerged between them in the process.
Paris-based outfit Wide House is handling international sales for “The Raft,” described in the jury’s statement as “a unique record of time and culture, of ageing and ultimately, a monument to the courage of people formerly known as the weaker sex, who embark on a journey into the unknown.” Among the titles it beat to the top prize were two Sundance critics’ favorites, RaMell Ross’s “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” and Robert Greene’s “Bisbee ’17.” Past winners of the festival’s top gong include Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” and “The Look of Silence,” as well as recent Oscar nominee “Last Men in Aleppo.”
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The jury gave a special commendation to U.S. directors Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside for their film “América,” which made its international premiere in Copenhagen after unspooling earlier this month at Missouri’s True/False fest. The film, a poignant study of three Mexican brothers tasked with caring for their ailing 93-year-old grandmother when their father is imprisoned, was praised by the jury as “a study in sensitivity and emotional intelligence from moment to moment, building to a crescendo of astonishing emotional impact.”
In the festival’s FACT:Award section, dedicated to investigative documentaries, Canadian-Afghan wife-and-husband team Elissa and Gulistan Mirzaei emerged triumphant for their film “Laila at the Bridge,” a study of a woman running a solo rehabilitation mission for opium addicts in Kabul. U.S.-born Jumana Manna, meanwhile, won the festival’s New:Vision section, devoted to films from contemporary artists, for “Wild Relatives,” an original interpretation of the connections binding Syria, Lebanon and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, with Tinne Zenner’s “Translations” given a special mention.
The Next:Wave award for emerging docmaking talent went to Italian composer and sound designer Giorgio Ferrero for his first feature as director, “Beautiful Things”: Co-directed with Federico Biasin, the avant-garde film premiered at last year’s Venice fest, and marries disparate audiovisual elements into a form of “documentary science fiction.” Special mentions from the Next:Wave jury went to Anat Yuta Zuria’s and Shira-Clara Winther’s “Conventional Sins” and Bing Liu’s Sundance prizewinner “Minding the Gap.”
In the regionally specific Nordic:DOX competition, Denmark’s Lasse Lau took the award for his debut feature “Lykkelaender,” an outsider’s reflection on Greenlandic mythology, while a special mention went to “The Night,” by Norwegian filmmaker Steffan Strandberg. Finally, the festival’s Politiken Audience Award went to Danish filmmaker Katrine Philip’s real-life legal thriller “False Confessions,” beating such heavyweight competition as “Jane” and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner “Kailash.”
This year’s edition of CPH:DOX — the 15th overall, and the second since its shift on the festival calendar from November to March — concludes on Sunday.